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Transitioning from Dentist-Owner to the CEO of a DSO

It’s an exciting - and scary - time when you’re making the leap from owning a private practice to running a dental support organization.

AJ Acierno, DDS, sat down with Amol Nirgudkar, CEO of Patient Prism, to talk about that transition. Dr. Acierno is the CEO and co-founder of DecisonOne Dental Partners, a DSO with 25 dental practices in the Chicago area.

Dr. Acierno said it helps to realize private practice owners already play the role of a CEO; they may just call themselves that.

“In my view, your mindset can never change from what it's been like to be a clinician,” says Dr. Acierno. “You still must get people to believe in a vision. You still must get them to follow something that you're trying to do.  

“Most entrepreneurial dentists are successful,” says Dr. Acierno. “They are able to connect with patients, they have relationships with their team members, and they are good leaders.”

The shift happens when you start trying to bring the systems and mindset to a new location, one that you aren’t able to physically enter and talk to your team members every day.

Most dental schools don’t teach the business side of dentistry, and building the infrastructure to support a dental support organization (DSO) can be tricky. You need to make sure you have people in place to handle accounting, marketing, supplies, human resources, mergers & acquisitions, and legal. As you make the transition from dentist-owner to the CEO of a DSO, you need to put your trust in others to manage those aspects of the business.

The key is making sure that, as CEO, you’re setting the right expectations.

“Make sure you’re clear on how you want to treat people,” Dr. Acierno said. “And when I saw treat people, I mean treat team members and doctors right. You want to make sure there’s clarity in the systems and the expectations of the systems. We always say our systems and our office is like a road. You can go this way or that way, just don’t go off the road.”

The complete story of DecisionOne Dental Partners’ development and the challenges they faced is told in a video series available at Patient Prism Academy.

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